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03:48 PM
Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, InformationWeek
Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, InformationWeek
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BofA’s Volunteerism Pays Off

Bank of America to keep track of employees' time spent volunteering, in part to conform with the Community Reinvestment Act

There are immeasurable benefits to encouraging employees to volunteer in their communities, from improving staff morale to generating neighborhood goodwill. Bank of America Corp. believes there's also a measurable benefit, so it's planning to use a Web-based tool to track its employees' volunteer hours.

Bank of America expects to roll out nationally to tens of thousands of employees volunteer-management software from a four-year-old company called AngelPoints. Bank of America tested the AngelPoints systems in its community development banking group for about nine months and is in the process of rolling it out to all employees.

Banks have a particular interest in tracking employee volunteerism, because it can help them conform with the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to serve the particular needs of their communities in various ways. The federal government assesses banks' Community Reinvestment Act records whenever they want to open new branches or seek approval for a merger or acquisition.

By tracking employees' volunteer time, especially when they donate time in company-sponsored community events, a bank can better assess whether those activities are eligible for Community Reinvestment Act credit, says Andy Mercy, AngelPoints' founder and CEO.

Bank of America gained that benefit in its pilot-test use of AngelPoints, says Bob Mandala, senior VP of Team Bank of America, the bank's volunteer organization. Bank of America can track when employees have volunteered time in a community, whether it's reading to schoolchildren, helping at a food bank or participating in a fund-raising walkathon for a nonprofit organization. It also can help the bank track its executives' activities and the various charitable boards on which they serve.

"This allows us to track things we couldn't track before," Mandala says.

Tracking volunteer hours raises some delicate questions about whether a company is making "volunteering" a job requirement.

Bank of America promotes volunteering, with a corporate goal for employees to donate about two hours a week to their communities if they can. But it doesn't require volunteer work, Mandala says.

The volunteer work is kept separate from Bank of America employees' human-resources records, though the experience can be added to a worker's record by a manager if it helps the employee demonstrate he or she is developing skills or reaching certain leadership goals, Mandala says.

Bank of America decided not to create a link between the AngelPoints system and its HR applications. Mercy says AngelPoints can provide that kind of interface, so that volunteer information can be entered into companies' HR or financial systems. That could let companies more easily record and track supplies and other costs for a charitable event, he says.

AngelPoints' flagship product, the Enterprise Volunteer Solutions suite, also offers a portal, volunteer matching, grant management and communication and messaging tools. "The biggest advantage is the communications capability," Mandala says. Bank of America can send e-mail blasts to large groups of employees about upcoming events they may be interested in working on, and also can automatically send e-mails to individuals who might be a good fit for certain activities.

An average contract for a hosted AngelPoints offering costs about $1 per employee a year, Mercy says. Other AngelPoints customers include AAA of Northern California.

Most of AngelPoints' competition comes from software designed for nonprofits to manage their corps of volunteers. Mandala likes that AngelPoints caters to business needs. "This is built for companies," he says. "It's not a jerry-rigged product that was built for nonprofits."

The Bank's Strategy

COMPLIANCE PAYOFF: Tracking volunteer time can help Bank of America meet Community Reinvestment Act rules for how it serves local needs

COMMUNICATION BENEFITS: The bank uses its system to mass e-mail groups of employees who are working on a volunteer project or might have an interest in one

NO INTEGRATION: The system could be connected to human-resources applications, but Bank of America keeps volunteer hours separate from HR files

BUSINESS-FRIENDLY TOOL: The bank chose a hosted software tool that was written specifically for for-profit businesses looking to track volunteers, not a system built for nonprofit volunteer management

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 16, 2004 edition of InformationWeek

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